Fantasy Recommendations

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We usually listen to audiobooks while we're driving. We've gone through the whole Harry Potter series (after reading them in hard copy). We've also tried out some new authors. We didn't like Ursula LeGuin's first Earthsea book very much, but we did like Terry Goodkind's first Sword of Truth book (something I can't say about the new TV adaptation Legend of the Seeker, which doesn't have much of anything to do with the book besides the character names and a few very general characteristics taken from the original storyline but modified enough to remove the most interesting aspects). Sam has long been a fan of Anne McCaffrey's Pern series, and we listened to one of those also (after having read a bunch). I'm not as impressed with her writing, but I like the world she's created, which is one of the things I like about fantasy and science fiction in general.

One of the problems we keep running into is that we listen to something and then can't continue on because our library doesn't have an audio version of the next volume in the series. They don't have the second Goodkind book or the next McCaffrey one after Moreta, where we left off. We also are re-reading Terry Pratchett's Discworld series, and the library had book 6, so we've been listening to that, but they only have a few more, and they're much later in the series. We could always listen to books we've read or ones one of us has read. I'm thinking Lloyd Alexander might be good (new to Sam). There is always Tolkien or Lewis if we want to go through those again. Our library system has Stephen Lawhead's first few volumes in the Arthur/Pendragon series. I tried reading the first one when it came out but didn't get very far, and maybe having an audio version would make it easier to get through it.

But I'm wondering if anyone has further recommendations of authors to try who would be similar to what we've liked. I don't like Stephen Donaldson. I thought his white gold series was awful. Besides what I've mentioned, we both really like Terry Brooks. I've thought about Robert Jordan, Tad Williams, Raymond Feist, Fred Saberhagen, Katherine Kerr, and David Eddings, but their respective first volumes aren't in the library system. They do have some of the Dune series, including the first one, but I'm somewhat hesitant about that unless Sam decides to push it. Roger Zelazny's Nine Princes in Amber is available, but I don't know much about that other than seeing his name mentioned a lot in scifi/fantasy contexts.

12 Comments

Octavia Butler's Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents are fantastic. Margaret Atwood's Oryx & Crake and The Handmaid's Tale. Neil Gaiman's American Gods. Philip K. Dick's short stories are good, but The Divine Invasion is interesting to say the least.

Jordan and Feist are great. I agree that Donaldson's 'white gold' series was awful, but I actually like his other stuff a lot. (Try his 'Mordant's Need' 2-book miniseries, and if you like the plot twists his 5-part 'Gap' series is even more wrenching, if a little slow at first.)

Other recommendations: George RR Martin, Lawrence Watt-Evans, and (according to my brother -- I haven't had a chance to check it out myself yet) Robin Hobbs' Farseer Trilogy.

I've just started reading Tad William's Shadowmarch series. I think you'd like that one. I also highly enjoyed TW's Otherland series, which is a nice blend of fantasy and scifi. I really liked the Amber Chronicles, but I don't think you or Sam would. Zelazny never develops the culture or history of Amber, it's like all that exists there is the royal family.
I loved Donaldson's White Gold Wielder series (haven't read the most recent cash-grab venture, though). You should check out some of the PK Dick audiobooks too. Just my two cents...

Brian Sanderson's Elantris might be out as a one shot audio book and enjoyable reflection of his writing since he's going to be finishing up Jordan's Wheel of Time series.George R. Martin's series looks like its out on audio but he's not finished writing it so I wouldn't want to recommend it, no matter how awesome his writing is. Jim Butcher's Dresden Seires might be out on Audio books and although the stories do have some connection, they stand fairly enjoyable on their own as well.

Why the hesitation on Dune, just wondering?

I liked Ted Dekker's "Circle" trilogy, although the writing itself leaves a lot to be desired.

Susan Cooper's "Dark is Rising" series is pretty good, but it's probably a lower reading level than you're considering. It's not that far from the Prydain Chronicles, I guess. (In reading level, that is.)

I didn't really care for "Ender's Game" by Orson Scott Card, but "Speaker for the Dead" made it worth having read the first. That's as far as I've gotten in that series so far.

I like Robert Jordan's "The Wheel of Time," but if you're not already following it, I'd suggest waiting until the last book comes out. Since he's passed away, it's unclear whether the last book will be remotely satisfactory. I'd be happy to let you know when/if that book comes out.

I really liked Jordan at first, but his books just kept going on and on, and the last few had too little happening--until the most recent, which had a lot happening, but in a rushed and unsatisfactory way. The final book is being completed by Brandon Sanderson, who wrote Mistborn (and also did the Writing Excuses podcast, which I found informative). Mistborn is pretty good, so I have some hopes for it--but also some doubts, as Mistborn's ending was a bit too Deus ex Machina (well, okay, you could see it coming from a mile away, so maybe it doesn't fit the literary definition, but it does fit the actual one).

I also highly recommend Jim Butcher, both for his modern day wizard/private investigator Harry Dresden series, and for his magic-powered Roman Empire Codex Alera story.

And of course, it'd be tacky to mention my own fantasy epic, especially considering it isn't finished, but some people have liked it.

I would definitely recommend the Lloyd Alexander books. The Chronicles of Prydain are very good.

Card's original Ender series was quite good. The prequels not so much. Also his Seventh Son series is not too bad and is more in the fantasy genre.

Maybe some Fritz Lieber(Fafhrd & The Grey Mouser), Piers Anthony(Blue Adept), or maybe even some Larry Niven(Ringworld).

I actually liked the Thomas Covenant series and Dune so ymmv. :)

I thought the Thomas Covenant series was boring. The main character wasn't likable at all. Sometimes you can make up for that, as the coolness factor and other characters did in the recent Transformers movie even though the main character was a complete idiot. But there wasn't enough that was interesting to counterbalance it, partly because so much space was put toward discussing Covenant's own issues. Maybe the world in question would have been interesting if it had a likable protagonist, but it wasn't interesting enough given the main character.

Dune is very long, and my understanding is that there's an awful lot of exposition about matters of great detail that it's hard to keep track of. I'm not really the type of reader who needs constant action, but if there's too much information to keep track of without constant page-flipping then it doesn't make for good listening in the car. If I had a short list of novels to read and a lot of time to read, I might read that series. Right now I still have eleven Terry Brooks books and one graphic novel in the Shannara world to read, and then there's Terry Goodkind's Sword of Truth series beyond the first one before I'll want to start using reading time with an untested author.

For humorous philologistic fantasy I would consider Jasper Fforde's books. Our library has 1 or 2 on audio disc.

As a Christian, I would caution you against Stephen Donaldson's Gap books as a large portion of the premise in those books deals with the sado-masochistic relationship between two of the pro/antagonists. Spiritually speaking, Donaldson's work resides in a dangerous place though intellectually intriguing. Not sure it's worth the amoral residue it leaves behind.

And that brings up another train of thought (or thread of comments): As an avid reader am I escaping reality and is that what God wants me to be doing with my time? Considering its all going to burn, anyway? I guess one can pull out the chestnut that God can use literature to reveal His will to us, but doesn't He already provide His word and His Holy Spirit to speak a little less allusively to us? And, if so, are we wasting the precious gift of time listening to this stuff?

My wife and I sit on either side of the fence on this, with me tending towards the "literary revelation" approach and her tending towards the "waste of time" approach. Perhaps its just a matter of perspective? Are we addicts? Do we rely on entertainment to get us through the day? Or do we rely on God?

Neil, in case you check back here but not at the main blog page, I've responded to your comment here.

At long last, I read "Dune" this past summer. I'd started it before, and gave up. However, this time I forced myself to get through it ... partly because friends of mine found out that I'd never read it, and my standing as biggest science fiction in my circle of friends was in peril.

I hated it.

The whole book is exposition. Most of the major events are either foretold through encyclopedia entries at the beginning of each chapter or are told after the fact. The ending was totally unsatisfactory, with Paul changing from merely unlikable to beneath contempt.

End of rant.

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